A review of the Licensing Act 2003 was published in March 2008 and revealed a mixed picture. The change in opening hours has not led to the widespread problems some people feared. Overall, crime and alcohol consumption are down. However alcohol-related violence has increased in the early hours of the morning and some communities have seen a rise in disorder. Our main conclusion is that people are using the freedoms, but people are not sufficiently using the considerable powers granted by the Act to tackle problems, and that there is a need to rebalance action towards enforcement and crack down on irresponsible behaviour.
Since the publication of the review, we have taken a number of actions. We have launched regional workshops for front-line practitioners, to ensure that they have the knowledge and confidence to use their existing powers under the Licensing Act. Two workshops have been held so far, with a further 11 scheduled to be held from January to March 2009.
Additionally, we have announced that we will legislate for a new, mandatory code of practice. This will contain some compulsory national conditions, banning the most irresponsible practices and promotions which encourage people to drink excessively, or promote a binge-drinking culture. This will not affect the majority of businesses, small or large, who behave responsibly—but will target those that don't.
Further, the Government are funding a £4.5 million enforcement campaign, in addition to existing resources from the police, local authorities, and others, focused on 40-50 priority areas and led by ACPO Commander Simon O'Brien. There is additional funding for the 20 priority PCT areas, and a £10 million investment in national awareness campaigns.